Grand Finals Day dawned bright and fair in the company of a robust breeze that was to keep the players honest all day long. Four players would compete off scratch for the title of Club Champion and four more would compete with handicaps to be the Handicap Club Champion.
The favourite for the big one was Ryan Macaskill who having won the title for the last three years was looking to equal the club record of four-in-a-row held jointly by Jim Rodger and Michael Whatley-in the dim and distant past.
In the first of the semi-finals Ryan had the honour off the tee at 9am prompt thanks to Club Captain and official starter Ally Young. His opponent was Ross Cumming who was well aware of the challenge awaiting him.
Although the championship is played off scratch to give the reader an idea of the relative skill levels of the two men Ryan has a handicap of four while Ross plays off twelve.
However I suspect that nobody in the whole wide world of amateur golf actually ever knows what their handicap is on any given day(or hour for that matter)now thanks to the wonders of the World Handicap System.
Following his rather lacklustre performance seven days ago Ryan was quick of his mark this week with the club record in sight and he slipped easily into a five hole lead at the turn. He played the opening nine holes in just 34 strokes which was just too hot for his opponent to handle.
A few holes later and the match was all over.
In the other match Alasdair Sutherland(7)took on the challenge of Jim Cumming(10) for the dubious ‘pleasure’ of tackling Ryan in the final.
Ally took an early two hole lead but ‘steady-as-she-goes’ Jim pulled it back to all square at the turn. He took the lead for the first time after winning the 11th hole and after a few halved holes he put the pedal to the metal and eased to victory by a margin of 3&1.
After a spot of rather dodgy lunch prepared by a lunatic masquerading as a cook it was game on for the final.
Jim, like his son Ross in the morning was rather apprehensive about the uphill battle he faced off scratch against the reigning champion but the men of Clan Cumming had done extremely well to have secured their respective place in the championship finals.
As they teed off the intensity of the wind increased with just the odd drop or two of rain and the temperature dropped. No loss of heat though in Ryan’s game as despite now quite difficult and blustery conditions he roared into a six hole lead at the halfway point and that despite bogeying the opening hole!
This time, in full swing he needed a mere 31 shots to play the first nine holes and nobody in our club can live with that pace! Shortly afterwards the game reached it’s conclusion and Ryan Macaskill was duly crowned the club champion of the Isle of Skye Golf Club for the fourth successive year.
The all-time record was duly equalled and brought nicely up to date.
Very well done to Ryan as he heads back to Royal Dornoch GC to continue in his current role as an assistant professional golfer.
He is a pleasant, level-headed and well-mannered young man who is not just a credit to himself and his family but to the Isle of Skye Golf Club as well and we wish him all the best for the future.
There was no shortage of drama in the Handicap Championship and it most certainly was not ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’!
In the first semi-final Geoff Williams(12) took on the challenge of Robert Macaskill(10)
In a pretty even first nine holes the honours were passed to and fro with never more than a one hole advantage to either man but Robert ‘dined’ on a one up lead at half time.
As conditions worsened Robert extended his lead to two holes after eleven. Thereafter it was a wee bit of you have one, I’ll have one till Robert won the 17th for a 2&1 victory and a place in the final.
In the other tie Andrew Long(8) accepted the challenge of John Finlayson(12).
John took an early lead in winning five of the opening seven holes but Andrew won holes eight and nine to ‘dine’ three down.
Ten and eleven changed hands equally before a run of halved holes saw Andrew run out of time as John won 4&2 to secure his place in the final.
And so to the championship match with Robert Macaskill versus John Finlayson.
Robert got off to a good start winning the opening two holes and kept his nose in front extending his lead to four holes at the turn. A couple of nasty showers had battered the course as the combatants headed for the 10th tee. After twelve holes the lead had been extended to five holes in Robert’s favour with only six holes left to play.
However, I’ve made reference before to John Finlayson’s indefatigability and we were about to witness a fine example of it. He won the 13th,14th and 15th holes then16 and 17 to square the match in a truly remarkable comeback.
There was only the 18th hole left to play unless extra time was to be required. Would John, now firmly in the ascendancy cap off a glorious comeback or would Robert somehow manage to make one final effort to reverse the momentum and collect the trophy?
John had the honour and hit a good drive-as did Robert.
John was first to play his second shot and must have had trouble settling to the task in hand after such a tumultuous few holes. A full-blown biff is one thing but touch and finesse are quite another.
Hit a good one and the pressure ramps up even more on Robert but hit a bad one and all that effort would have been for nothing.
He hit his ball just to the left of the green so pressure now shifts massively to his opponent who must have been absolutely shell-shocked.
Unfortunately the connection was poor and the ball popped forward into an unplayable lie in the open drainage ditch. A penalty drop was required as Robert then played his fourth shot onto the green.
John, playing his third shot chipped his ball from the edge of the green to come to rest within gimme distance from the hole and in the spirit of the game Robert conceded the putt and with it the match.
Those of us inside the clubhouse were stunned as news of Robert’s substantial lead had gradually filtered back to base and we had expected ‘game over’ anytime soon.
John was magnanimous in victory but great praise too for Robert as he handled himself magnificently in defeat. In what must have been a devastating blow he maintained great composure throughout the ensuing formalities.
His was a great example to both his sons Ryan and Archie and indeed all who were present in and around the clubhouse in how to handle defeat with dignity.
Very well played to all those who were involved in what was a truly memorable day in the history of the IOSGC.
In conclusion this championship was once again very kindly and generously sponsored by Gaelic Whiskies and Gaelic Gins of Eilean Iarmain and to them once again we extend our thanks.
The remaining four ties in the Gents Singles Matchplay Competition kindly sponsored by the WHFP saw Ross Cumming defeat Graham Smith by 2&1 and Alex Munro beat Willie Urquhart also by 2&1
James Colven won 2&1 versus Kenny Macleod and Chris Hanley got the better of Chris Mackinnon 1up.
The draw for the next round sees James Colven v John Finlayson, John Maclean v Graham Cope, Alex Munro v Ross Cumming and Chris Hanley v Geoff Williams.
The first match of the Fourball Matchplay saw John Finlayson and Willie Urquhart triumph against Robbie Weir and Robert Macaskill by 4&3 while Chris Mackinnon and Mick Coe lost out to Ian Lewis and Donald Bethune by the margin of 2 holes.
Two of the losing semifinalists from the previous day decided to get back on the horse in this stableford competition.
Geoff Williams’ two laps of the track were negotiated in 41 and an excellent 35 shots respectively converting to 16 and 23pts for a convincing win over Andrew Long.
Andrew didn’t score on all of the holes but secured 16pts for lap one and a further 14pts to complete his round.
On Saturday the gents will be competing in two handicap categories for the Alpha and the Sconser trophies with a strokeplay competition to follow on Sunday.
The ladies meanwhile will be playing round three of their club championship and like the gents equivalent we express our thanks and gratitude to Gaelic Whiskies and Gaelic Gins of Eilean Iarmain for their continuing and very generous sponsorship of the event.